Jemar Tisby’s book “How To Fight Racism” is a welcomed guide for Christians and non-Christians alike in a time when many pastors are still electing silence and “preach the Gospel” rhetoric over public condemnation of racism as evil sin.
“Fighting racism is not just about how it changes the world; it’s also about how it changes you.”Jemar Tisby
Last year, I left my church because they were not vocal enough in taking a stance against racism during the Great Racial Unrest of 2020. I say vocal enough because while some words were said, it left much to be desired, including guidance on how to fight racism as a Christian. Having worked at the church previously, I was well aware of their “we’re not a social justice church” stance. Though I will admit I was disillusioned with what that actually meant (or what I wanted it to mean). During my goodbye calls, I told my pastors that after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, I was no longer the same person* and I needed to do something. If they couldn’t teach me how to fight racism as a Christian, then I needed to go somewhere that could. (*I didn’t realize it at the time, but the truth is this is the trajectory I had been moving along all along.)
I, like so many others across the country, now found ourselves churchless, hurting, and unsure what our next steps were. A friend reached out inviting me to join her in a study of Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise.” Through that study, my eyes were opened to just how racist today’s Christianese rhetoric and practices continue to be against Blacks and people of color. “Racism never goes away. It just adapts,” Tisby said.
I was forced to face hard truths about people I loved and served with, and revisit interactions that left me uncomfortable but were originally brushed off and swept under the rug. The same racism that birthed Black and white only churches continues to isolate Blacks and people of color in “multiethnic” churches, using their faces but requiring they check their cultural ways of worship and praise and expression at the door.
So now what? I can no longer ignore the mounting lump under the proverbial rug and it’s too high to walk over. Enter “How To Fight Racism.” Having walked this very walk himself during the Mike Brown killing, Tisby understands where his readers are and what they might be faced with. He isn’t one to mince words, yet Tisby manages to give clear directives for fighting racial injustice without inciting violence and anger. And all the while, making space for the inevitable anger you will feel when faced with racism, especially Blacks and other people of color. (Sorry white allies, not all Black people are going to join hands with you and pour their pain out for you to have with your tea. Fight the fight anyway. You might be enraged to hear about your family’s, or church’s, racist past. Fight the fight anyway.)
HTFR may have been written with the white Christian in mind, but Tisby addresses Black people, people of color, and non-Christians throughout. He lays out practical plans for people and organizations at every level – individuals, small businesses, white businesses, churches, non-churches, Christians, non-Christians, politicians, government, etc. He also gives advice on how individuals can take the fight to each level. Tisby’s advice for how churches can get involved in the fight for racial justice is refreshing in that, while it is based on the foundational principle that all people are created in God’s image, it does not require preaching the Gospel. Instead, it is actual, boots-on-the-ground work that pastors and their congregations can do alongside Christians and non-Christians. It’s work that non-Christians can hold the church accountable to without engaging in a wits-end war on beliefs. “How to Fight Racism” bridges the gap between Christians and non-Christians and allows them to work side-by-side to fight a common enemy: racism.
And after this week’s domestic terrorist attack on the US Capitol fueled by a sore-loser President, we need all hands on deck. So in the words of Jemar Tisby, “Today is the day and now is the time to join this journey toward racial justice.”
“How to Fight Racism” can be purchased at HowToFightRacism.com.